Inside Stanley Kubrick’s annotated copy of Stephen King’s novel ‘The Shining’
Stanley Kubrick’s annotated version of Stephen King’s copy of ‘The Shining’ offers a glimpse into the creative process which resulted in a cinematic horror masterpiece.
The 1980 horror film directed by the great Stanley Kubrick is famously based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel of the same name—even if the two haven’t particularly seen eye-to-eye regarding the adaptation. The film, co-written with novelist Diane Johnson, tells the story of Jack Torrance [played by Jack Nicholson], an aspiring writer who is attempting to recover from a serious bout of alcoholism. In the search of new work, Torrance accepts a position as caretaker of the isolated ‘Overlook Hotel’ which is located in the Colorado Rockies. The stipulation, however, is that the job role is off-season which means Torrance and his family would be seemingly trapped in the hotel amid a severe winter.
With a handsome budget which stretched in excess of $20million, Kubrick still decided to work with an intensely small crew which subsequently resulted in long, stressful and exhausting days on set. While several versions of the film were released, the overall immediate reaction was less than positive and reviews proved to be incredibly mixed. However, much like many of Kubrick’s films, the legacy of The Shining has grown in the years that followed and the picture is now widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films of all time.
King, who has been famously harsh in the assessment of Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel, once criticised the decision to cast Nicholson as the lead and later said that Shelley Duvall’s performance didn’t live up to his expectations: “[S]he’s basically just there to scream and be stupid, and that’s not the woman that I wrote about,” he said in an interview with BBC.
“I think The Shining is a beautiful film and it looks terrific and as I’ve said before, it’s like a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it. In that sense, when it opened, a lot of the reviews weren’t very favorable and I was one of those reviewers. I kept my mouth shut at the time, but I didn’t care for it much,” King later said while talking to Deadline. “I feel the same because the character of Jack Torrance has no arc in that movie. Absolutely no arc at all,” he continued.
King continued: “When we first see Jack Nicholson, he’s in the office of Mr. Ullman, the manager of the hotel, and you know, then, he’s crazy as a shit house rat. All he does is get crazier. In the book, he’s a guy who’s struggling with his sanity and finally loses it. To me, that’s a tragedy. In the movie, there’s no tragedy because there’s no real change. The other real difference is at the end of my book the hotel blows up, and at the end of Kubrick’s movie the hotel freezes. That’s a difference. But I met Kubrick and there’s no question he’s a terrifically smart guy. He’s made some of the movies that mean a lot to me, Dr. Strangelove, for one and Paths of Glory, for another. I think he did some terrific things but, boy, he was a really insular man. In the sense that when you met him, and when you talked to him, he was able to interact in a perfectly normal way but you never felt like he was all the way there. He was inside himself.”
More recently, in celebration of Kubrick’s work, an extensive exhibition detailing his career arrived at London’s Design Museum earlier this year and displays step-by-step to how Kubrick created genre-defining worlds for his films. The show attempts to offer an “exclusive insight into Kubrick’s mind through rare objects, projections and interviews exploring his special relationship with England and particularly London, as his primary film location and source of inspiration.”
With the inclusion of crucial props and scripts, a tattered and well-read copy of Kubrick’s annotated version of King’s ‘The Shining’ novel went on display. The book, normally housed in the Stanley Kubrick Archive in London, shows a series of comments which ultimately offered an example of Kubrick’s pre-planning.
While most of it has hard to decipher, one comment reads: “Maybe just like there are people who can shine, maybe there are places that are special. Maybe it has to do with what happened in them or where they were built.”
With most of the dialogue highlighted in yellow marker, more generic comments such as: “Any problems with the kitchen—you phone me” and “what else could JT do?”.